Reviewed by: Emily Pagano
Review started: February 17, 2021
Review finished: April 19, 2021
Data and Sources
- The archive collects ephemera such as posters, pamphlets, flyers, zines, and buttons
- The archive also holds audio and visual material and subject files
- Only a small portion of the Interference Archive is digitized and viewable online
- Objects in the digitized exhibition have been given minimal metadata and are categorized by decade and contextualized with narrative
- Digitized content is limited to an online exhibit on the history of student organizing
- Material is presented as part of a timeline organized by decade
Digital Tools Used to Build It
- Information not prominently displayed on site
The stated mission of the Interference Archive is to “explore the relationship between cultural production and social movements” in part by collecting a wide array of objects and ephemera that are created as part of social movements by the participants themselves. This includes but is not limited to posters, flyers, publications, zines, books, T-shirts, buttons, moving images, and audio and visual recordings.
Interference Archive’s digital content at the time of this review is limited to an exhibit entitled Walkout: A Brief History of Student Organizing and marks the 50th anniversary of the Kent State and Jackson State massacres in 1970 and the nationwide student strikes that happened in the wake. The exhibit comprises ephemera—mainly posters, pamphlets, flyers, and zines, many of which are from student art collectives. The Interference Archive does not make it clear on their website exactly where the material for this exhibit was sourced from, but the archive itself grew from the extensive personal collection of its founders. Their collection policy states that donated material also makes up a portion of their open-access holdings.
Because this is such an open and cooperative project, I would have hoped for more digitized material available to view online. I’m sure that funding and staffing present issues in this regard, as well as the potential complications around digitizing large format posters, non-paper ephemera, etc. I also think it is worth noting that the Interference Archive seems to have thrived on a physical model—many physical exhibits, events, and heavily involved on-site volunteers. Exploration of their website does not indicate that digitization or digital projects are a high priority for this archive.
As far as the process behind this digital exhibit, there is not much of a methodology explained on the website about the digitization process or storage. From a curatorial perspective, given that the physical archive is extensive, I wonder what went into the decision to digitize the material they did, and whether it was digitized specifically for this online exhibit.
The material in this exhibit is presented within a timeline, charting the rise of worldwide student movements from the 1960s through the 2000s by decade. Each decade has a corresponding group of items from the collection. Interestingly, the 2000s section has a few internet memes, allowing for an interesting perspective when paired with some of the more severe items calling for revolution and rebellion. I found the timeline layout to be a useful way of presenting the information and allowing the user to contextualize the items and see the similarities of these student movements through the years.